by Julian Dierkes, Associate Dean, Funding, G+PS
When students enroll in full-time PhD programs, they are dedicating themselves to their training and research for years. In return, UBC commits to providing training and research opportunities. Recognizing the importance of basic funding to PhD students, but also the contributions to research that PhD students make, UBC instituted a Minimum Funding policy for full-time PhD students in Sept 2018 that guaranteed minimum funding packages of $18,000 to PhD students in their first four years. It is important to note that this policy was intended to set the floor for funding, not to set a target. And, in fact, the average funding package for PhD students in their first four years now amounts to more than $31,000.
While there had been some fears that the requirement for funding to be in place in order to admit to PhD programs would force some programs into a reduction in the number of admissions, there is no indication that this has happened across the board. At the same time, it is clear that researchers who are just beginning to establish their research agendas as well as programs that do not also have large undergraduate programs which allow them to include teaching assistantships in funding packages struggle more to assemble minimum packages than other colleagues.
While the average thus is far beyond the minimum, the minimum support was also intended to be raised over time. With the creation of the President’s Excellence Initiative PhD Award last summer, between $500 and $1,500 (depending on enrolment status) in funding was added for all PhD students. This and the fact that most funding packages already amount to far more than the $18,000 minimum allowed Graduate Council to vote this December to raise the minimum from $18,000 to $22,000 for PhD students entering in September 2021.
Funding has been on many people’s mind in the past year as the pandemic has exacerbated needs and pointed to the importance of providing minimum levels of funding to build resilience to combat crises. We hope that raising the minimum funding that is guaranteed to entering and continuing PhD students for the first four years of their training will enable them to remain true to their dedication to research as UBC endeavours to provide training and research opportunities to them.